Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Fiddling While Darfur Burns

It is hard to imagine that anyone puts any faith in the UN to solve international crises any more. And yet, the optimism that followed the earlier announcement that Sudan would allow UN peace keepers into Darfur seemed to indicate trust that the blue helmets would soon be riding to rescue of the long-suffering Darfuris. However, all indications are that any hope that the genocide would be ending soon seems premature.

First, Sudan only agreed to allow 3,000 UN troops into the region, and only in a supporting or advisory role. That would bring the total UN-African Union hybrid force to 10,000; far short of the 17,000 - 20,000 peace keepers that both the AU and the UN have claimed would be needed to properly monitor the situation and protect the civilians. There is no indication that Sudan is considering allowing the larger force into Darfur. And given that the UN is having trouble raising the 3,000 troops already given permission, it's not even clear that a larger force could be mustered. Furthermore, the New York Times reports today that Sudan has been flying heavy weapons into the area in planes disguised as UN or AU transports. There are also indications that these planes are being used to bombard villages. These certainly do not seem like the actions of a state willing to cooperate with the UN in order to end the genocide in Darfur.

While the UN fiddles in the vain and desperate hopes that the murderous Sudanese regime will consent to end a policy that has so far served its purposes well, the US continues to push for a heavier hand in dealing with Sudan. Today, President Bush threatened to strengthen US sanctions against Sudan unless immediate actions are taken to stop the killing. Specifically, Bush demanded that "the Sudanese government must allow U.N. support forces, facilitate deployment of a full U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force, stop supporting violent militias and let humanitarian aid reach the people of Darfur." If such actions are not forthcoming, Bush stated that "the United States would tighten economic sanctions on Sudan, barring certain companies from taking part in the U.S. financial system; target sanctions on individuals responsible for violence; and apply new sanctions against the government of Sudan."

However, such sanctions while well-intentioned and certainly an improvement over the pathetic dithering and wishful thinking of the UN, aren't likely to have a sufficiently rapid effect to make a significant difference. If Darfur is to be saved, the US, NATO, the EU, and any other state that gives a damn needs to deploy military force to the area, without Sudanese consent if need be. In congressional hearings last week, Senator Joseph Biden called for just such an intervention, arguing that even 2,500 U.S. troops could "radically change the situation on the ground now." And while Biden acknowledged that intervention would not end "solve the situation", "it will mean that there will be ten, a hundred, five hundred, a thousand, two thousand, five thousan, fifteen thousand women who will not be raped, children who will not die, and people who will not just be murdered indiscriminately." Biden went on to call for establishing a firm deadline by which Sudan would have to accept a larger and better-equipped UN peace keeping force or else face military intervention, even without the support of the UN. The UN has, of course, resisted any and all calls to set any hard or meaningful deadlines or demands.

Unfortunately, the current policy situation makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the US to act. One of the most tragic results of the Iraq War, and the Vietnam War before that, is the increased reluctance of the US policy makers and the American public to support military intervention. Since the invasion of Iraq, American support for interventions like that in Kosovo has drastically declined. A 2005 Pew Center poll found that 42 percent of Americans agreed with the statement that “the U.S. should mind its own business internationally, and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” It was the highest figure in over 40 years of polling on that question.

The American experience in Iraq must not be allowed to prevent the US from intervening to stop genocide and prevent murderous regimes from destroying large swathes of their populations. As I have written about before, there are plenty of reasons why such an intervention should be seen as part of American strategic national interest. But we also should not forget the moral imperative. Never again.


Matt Bondy said...

There are thugs using the levers of government to inflict systematic violence on human beings. I think that's a pretty strong justification for intervention right there.

"You don't get to kill masses of innocent people." There should be no other issues on the table.

Professor, have you spent much time on the Canadian-sponsored 'Responsibility to Protect' doctrine? Thoughts?

(As if you're not busy enough already, I'd sure love your thoughts on a post I wrote entitled "Canada buys tanks".)

If you don't mind, I've added you to my blogroll.


Seth Weinberger said...


Glad you liked the post, and the blog as a whole. I am familiar with the "Responsibility to Protect" work (I assign it in several of my classes), but I don't like it that much. It ultimately drops the ball and undermines its own recommendations because, at the end of the day, it still leaves the responsibility with the UN. The UN will never be capable of protecting peoples in that way; the only solution rests with unilateral or lower-level multilateral interventions.

I'll check out your post when I get a chance...thanks for pointing it out!!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Weinberger, I think you are in denial about the political reality.

The Left should congratulate themselves. At no time and at no place will Americans EVER intervene for humanitarian purposes. This was the inevitable fallout of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and Iraq War.

When Bill Clinton was President the most he could do was withdraw from Somalia and impotently lob a few missiles at sand dunes in reaction to terror attacks. In Bosnia he was reduced to a controlled bombing campaign.

Hey the Left hates the "neocons" and their hope to remake the ME with Iraq? Well this is what we get.

Rwanda's massacres were not stopped by US intervention because the Left reacted to Mogadishu with demands Clinton run away. Which is just what he did. Same with Darfur.

If you actually WANT to stop massacres in places like Rwanda, Darfur, and other places you must support a large, active, and politically unfettered US Military with bipartisan support for large scale military action first when US interests are threatened, and secondly when humanitarian issues rise.

It's political idiocy IMHO to expect a nation to forgo it's own rational military interests and instead spend it's blood, treasure, and lives for disinterested humanitarian action while vital interests are left unaddressed.

As a practical matter it would take large scale military action, including ground forces, air forces, and support troops to decisively engage and KILL the Janjaweed. With yes US casualties and wounded and someone like Ted Koppel reading out the names of the dead and shuddering in horror at the enemy we killed.

The problem with the idiot Left is they want a stop to violence and oppression by ... talking. Or actually they don't really. They merely wish to feel good. None of the Left would actually support killing the Janjaweed, in the mass quantities required, to stop the killing.

Regardless, the Left has won a great victory. The one nation that *might* have intervened to stop genocides in a mixture of it's own interests and humanitarian impulses will now refuse to do so for at least 4 generations. They certainly "got" Bush. No President Republican or Democrat will ever again propose humanitarian intervention. Not the least of which is the predictable reaction of the Left (first demand intervention, then agitate against it).

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